Lecturers lobby Heriot-Watt Court over compulsory redundancies
Published 25 Jun 2012 09:30 0 Comments
STAFF at Heriot-Watt University today lobbied members of its governing body in a row over compulsory redundancies at the School of Textiles based at the Galashiels campus.
The lobby took place outside the main reception* of the Edinburgh (Riccarton) campus where members of the court - the governing body of the university - are being asked to approve a five-year plan for the school, which includes cuts in staff and compulsory redundancies by the end of August.
The cuts would remove up to 10 full-time posts, which represents 25% of the workforce. The union says the losses, at the second oldest textile institution in the world dating back to 1883, would have a severe impact on Galashiels, whose limited economy is reliant on textile production.
The union believes the School has been penalised by the university in an unfair allocation of Scottish student numbers and funding due to the changes brought about by the introduction of fees for rest of UK students.
UCU Scottish official, Mary Senior, said: "Following the Scottish Government's commitment to higher education in the budget, we question the need for compulsory redundancies. These cuts would have a severe impact on Galashiels in terms of job losses, but also because textiles are so important to the local economy.
"The textile college merged with Heriot-Watt to help it survive, but the university appears to now be attempting to cut jobs rather than develop the staff."
The School of Textiles and Design is the second oldest textile institution in the world, dating back to 1883 and shares the Galashiels campus with Scottish Borders College. It was formed from a merger of the Scottish College of Textiles and Heriot-Watt University in 1998.
The aim of the merger was to enable the school to grow and build up higher education provision in the Scottish Borders. However, Heriot- Watt University pushed through substantial cuts in 2003 and threatened to move the school from Galashiels. Though it survived these cuts and increased its recruitment of Scottish students, the School is again facing cutbacks.
The principal of Heriot-Watt previously confirmed the School of Textiles in Galashiels has been running at a loss for at least the last eight years and had recorded a deficit of almost £500,000 in the past 12 months alone. He explained that Heriot-Watt had previously written off the debt using money from its other, more profitable, schools.
However, he revealed they could no longer afford to bail it out without putting the university at risk.
But Professor Steve Chapman, who pointed out the university is investing £12million in new student halls, said: "We have a plan and the plan is designed to make the Borders campus, in terms of our School of Textiles, sustainable for the future and actually I think it has got a very bright future."
This article appeared in Border Telegraph 25 Jun 12
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